Knowing Your Numbers-How to Develop Project Metrics for Your Land Surveying Company

Knowing Your Numbers-Project Metrics for Your Land Surveying Company

Knowing Your Numbers-Project Metrics for Your Land Surveying Company

If you've followed the last few Premium Posts, then you know that I've been working through the "Knowing Your Numbers" series of posts, describing how to use Metrics in your professional land surveying business.

To date, I've written Knowing Your Numbers-Business Metrics for Your Land Surveying Company, an article on which business metrics you can use to run your land surveying business, Knowing Your Numbers-How To Measure Your Success, an article on the importance of developing your own set of metrics and benchmarks to accurately measure your success, and Knowing Your Numbers-Project Metrics for Your Land Surveying Company, an article on how to use Project Metrics for your land surveying company.

In this Premium Membership post I share: How to Develop Project Metrics for Your Land Surveying Company.

How to Develop Project Metrics for Your Land Surveying Company

Three questions you might ask about developing Project Metrics might be:

  • Which Project Metrics Should I Collect?
  • How Should I Collect Project Metrics?
  • How Often Should I Evaluate Project Metrics?

These three questions get to the heart of having a functional and useful Project Metrics system. Remember this, collecting Project Metrics just for the sake of collecting data, is nothing more than a waste of time and valuable resources.

So first, and I probably should have pointed this out in the very first "Knowing Your Numbers" series of posts, is to decide whether you are going to actually use the metrics you collect. If you are going to use the metrics you collect, then do so consistently and reliably.

However, if you will not regularly use your Project Metrics data, then don't waste yours, or your employees, time collecting data that will not likely ever be used. Do keep in mind though, that not knowing your Project Metrics puts you at a business disadvantage.

Which Project Metrics Should I Collect?

To answer which Project Metrics you should collect, you first must define your goals and expected outcomes by collecting and evaluating your Project Metrics. Here's a short list of possible goals and outcomes for you to consider:

  • Develop Base Cost of Business Data. Outcomes: Business evaluation, business planning and strategic planning.
  • Develop Base Cost Per Project Type Data. Outcomes: Business (profit) evaluation of the types of projects that are, or are not, making you money.
  • Develop Cost per Project and Project Profitability Data. Outcomes: Building a knowledge base of the success, or failure, on each project.
  • Develop Actual Project Cost Breakdowns by Task. Outcomes: Building a knowledge base for accurate bidding and proposals, evaluation of and comparison between field crews, evaluation of individual performance, and process evaluation for improved workflow.
As an example, let's say that your professional land surveying company predominately performs boundary surveys. As such, you'd like to better understand your base costs, including how long it takes you to complete your boundary surveys, along with what each project task takes to complete. You also want to relate your Project Metrics to unifying factors.
With those goals in mind, you can document the steps (the process) you take to complete a boundary survey. Next, you determine a Project Metric for each step. Your plan might look like this (process - metric):
  1. Project Setup - 1 hr. per project.
  2. Research - 0.5 hrs. per parcel.
  3. Reconnaissance - 250 lineal feet per hour.
  4. Traverse Setup - 300 lineal feet per hour.
  5. Boundary Computations - 0.5 hrs. per parcel.
  6. CAD Drafting - 1 hr. per parcel.
  7. Setting Boundary Markers - 800 lineal feet per hour.
  8. Project Delivery & Closeout - 2 hrs. per project.
You need to insert your steps and Project Metrics. The key points here are to:
  1. Understand your process and the major steps you want to rack, and
  2. Determine what metrics make sense for the type of work that you do.
And, here's the reality check: At first, you will probably be wrong!
Initially, you will likely miss important steps and assign incorrect metrics to your steps. That OK, because as you collect your Project Metrics, you will better know what are the correct metrics. For instance, say that you initially determined your metric for traverse setup is 300 lineal feet per hour (2,400 lineal feet per day).
However, after a few months of collecting data, you find that the number is closer to 200 lineal feet per hour (1,600 lineal feet per day), so make that your new metric. Or better yet, shoot for 20% better at 240 lineal feet per hour (1,920 lineal feet per day), but use the actual number for bid preparation.

How Should I Collect Project Metrics?

The best method to collect Project Metrics is probably using your time sheet process. Getting that information into your timekeeping system may not be a simple matter, but it offers the most rewards. This is because you already have much of the data collection in place: Employee, project and hours worked.

Another way to do this, if your professional practice is small, is to create a spreadsheet to enter the Project Metric data. Still, the information most likely is recorded on each persons time sheet.

The process of each employee entering Project Metrics data in their time sheets is both stressful and eye-opening. Having to measures one's progress is stressful for the slackers and an opportunity for improvement for the motivated. As the boss, the challenge here is to get the employee (including yourself) to enter honest data and to understand that being productive isn't a burden, it's a responsibility.

How Often Should I Evaluate Project Metrics?

Asking how often you should evaluate your Project Metrics is like asking how often you should eat: Often enough to stay alive, but little more. At first, I think, you need to check your Project Metrics regularly, most likely daily. Can you really afford to let projects fall behind for more than a day? How about two or three days? A week or more? I don't think so.

Then, later on, when your organization integrates Project Metrics into the company culture and is showing improvements, you might only check your Project Metrics weekly. You also might want to check and revamp your metrics monthly, certainly not more than every three months, to best model reality and for strategic planning.

Of course, when you experience major changes in the workplace, like implementing new techniques or technologies, you certainly should re-evaluate your Project Metrics. I would also do a complete review yearly, to coincide with your yearly budget planning, business strategic planning, and services price setting planning.

Develop Project Metrics Summary

In summary, these are the steps to develop Project Metrics for your land surveying company:

  1.  Define the work process down into meaningful and measurable steps to decide what Project Metrics to collect.
  2. Associate a Project Metric to each part of the process.
  3. Collect Project Metrics as the work progresses.
  4. Integrate the collected Project Metrics and time worked into your business systems.
  5. Regularly check and update your Project Metrics.
  6. Go back to Step 1, above.
This Professional Land Surveyor Premium Post by Eric Colburn, PLS, Professional Land Surveyor Revivalist & Adviser.

Eric D. Colburn, PLS, "The Geo-Business Innovator", helps geo-professionals improve through innovative solutions, mastery of marketing and business growth strategies, and coaching/training. Eric is a successful, serial entrepreneur, podcaster, industry writer, product development consultant, and RI licensed professional land surveyor.

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